Recommendations for the continued curriculum reform.
1. Research into the results of the Bologna reform.
At IKSUR, measures should be taken to keep up with the research on the results of the Bologna-implementation with particular attention paid to the occasional claimed decrease in student qualification.
It is unlikely that the Bologna process will be reversed, but signals are being picked up that some changes are needed. Since some of this research and any possible changes may have a bearing upon the continued reform work at IKSUR, one must do everything possible to be oriented around this development.
2. Curriculum research.
As for the curriculum reform, it is highly recommendable to keep in contact with pedagogical research and development in such issues as ’hidden curriculum’ and ’student strategies’, The main reason for this can be found in the focus upon the didactical objectives of the EUROFACULTY Project. If one wants to improve learning, it is of crucial importance to see the difference between teaching and learning. One should never accept that what is taught is the same as what is learned.
One should also catch up with the specific research on these matters in the area of law and economy,
At other faculties, where other subjects are taught/learned, one should consult and use the specific research that focuses on these educational programmes and subjects.
3. The profile and identity of the institution.
Another important issue is that of diversity; the possibility of developing different approaches and profiles in research and education within the limits of Russian regulations, yet at the same time meeting the demand to keep up with the Bologna standardisation.
On the improvement of teaching.
Lectures and lecturing.
Lectures represent a prolongation of traditions from the church. They continue the tradition of preaching. Taking notes during the lecture follows the tradition of writing down what the priest said, sometimes extending this to what he said at the dinner table. Luther and Hitler are two well known German examples, each illustrating the point that if you feel you are a teacher with authority, your words are always so valuable that they have to be written down. This point hits at the central criticism of lectures. They represent authority. Therefore, if one wants to attack lecturing it is easier to attack their in built authority than to demonstrate that lecturing is an ineffective tool for teaching and learning. As a central theme of the ’1968’ student revolt, the slogans against lecturing were based mainly on this anti-authoritarian feeling and not so much upon educational research. This is a problem, because it seems as if lecturing does not get the interest that it deserves. It is high time that we shift the focus from criticising lecturing towards the question on how to improve lectures.
There is no scientific answer to the question of the optimal distribution between lectures and other teaching/learning activities, but it seems reasonable to believe that it is wrong to let lecturing have a monopoly in education. On this basis, one must agree that there is a need to decrease the number of lectures in favour of these other teaching/learning alternatives, even if we do not know what the ’optimal ratio’ may be.7
On the use of lectures.
One of the factors that the EUROFACULTY Project aimed at was to increase student activity as part of the learning process. Lectures are explicitly mentioned, both in quantitative and in qualitative contexts. The quantitative context is understood as decreasing the number of lectures while the qualitative aspect is to be found in the direction of substituting lectures with other ‘more activating’ learning forms.
It seems worth the effort to have a closer look into this.
First of all, lecturing seems per definition to be synonymous with passive learning. This is more or less taken for granted, but there is no scientific evidence for this.
In order to analyse the issue, we must seek an answer to the question: why do we have lectures? The underlying thought is that if lectures represent an ineffective teaching/learning tool, then we may suspect that the only reason why we have them is that they represent an old academic tradition that we ought to get rid of as soon as possible.
On the purpose of and the dangers with books.
One way to understand and make lectures legitimate is to have a closer look at another teaching/learning tool, known as books.
One of the advantages with books is that they describe the systematic results of fulfilled science. Their content usually represents what is known in the area that the book covers.
The pedagogical problem is that students may learn these results without any knowledge on how these results were obtained. Of course, different methods or experiments may be described, but the missing part is the answer to the question: How do scientists think in their work? The simple answer is that they do not tell us this in their publications or in their textbooks, because that is not the purpose of this sort of writing. As said above, the purpose is to give us the results of scientific work. As a consequence, focus is upon truth and simplicity. A mathematician may write 500 pages filled with wrong ideas, miscalculations, nonsense and sometimes rationality. At last, he or she has solved the problem. The solution may be presented in a publication of 10 pages. In the published article there is not a single word written about all the errors or wasted ideas. Everything is logical and convincing. Textbooks in mathematics have the same structure, even the removal of printing errors gives the impression that mathematicians think and work in a strict logical and rational way. The problem is that what is true for the publication of results, does not give a correct picture of the work leading up to the results.
With this in mind, one may say that the textbook is a suppressive educational tool. The poor student who reads them must surely compare with her or his own writings and thinking, getting the impression that in order to do scientific work, one needs to be a genius.
The oppressive element in scientific publications is based upon the fact that the writer is a liar, because he or she does not tell the reader the truth.
Normally, teachers or scientists want to both convince and to impress people. Galileo was like this. He was a great scientist who achieved great things and published great books. But the question is: can we learn how he was thinking from reading his books? No! He came to his results in one (sometimes chaotic way) and presented the results in a very different way. In order to find out how he thought and worked, we have to get access to and read his notes. (’Nachgelassende Schmierzettel’ as Dijksterhuis calls them).
As a young student in psychology and physics I was also oppressed when I compared my papers with textbooks and scientific papers. Then I had the luck to meet some scientists, and really great ones. They were drunk and told me the truth, that their brains and ways of thinking were not as straightforward as they appeared to be in the books and published papers.
Scientists seldom get drunk in an observable way, if they do not get a Nobel Prize. Here I do not think of the Nobel dinner in Stockholm. I am referring to the Nobel lectures. I learned more physics from reading the Nobel lectures than I learned from any book that I had been reading. Here they could confess, and describe the distance between report and record. The report telling us the result and the record saying how they thought and worked in order to find the result.
Here, we have touched upon one good reason for lecturing. In a lecture, the teacher has the possibility to tell both the results of scientific work and communicate the scientific way of thinking. There are other reasons too. If we stick to mathematics, we can easily observe the difference between the textbook and the lecture. In the textbook, there are words and formulas, but no voice, no teacher who walks in front of the blackboard and demonstrates how one formula is used to simplify another formula. Mathematics is difficult to understand, but in a lecture, the teacher has more media at her or his disposal than in a ‘dead’ printed book. Lectures include (more or less) a living person. The importance of this should not be underestimated. Later, we shall have a closer look at this.
With this understanding of textbooks, we may proceed in the analysis of lectures and lecturing.
On the improvement of lectures.
The picture that is given of the ’old system’ of lecturing in Kaliningrad must surprise everyone from the donor countries that read the documents. There it is stated that dictating is still a part of everyday life in Russian education. One may have thought that this practise was abandoned centuries ago, and that it demonstrates the backwardness of Russian educational thinking.
One should not forget that dictating has been an important part of our cultural development, and that in the beginning there was resistance against the introduction of writing. The ability to remember spoken words without written text has been important.
Not too many years ago, there was an invention called the ’overhead projector’. This could be, and is used in many different ways.
The professor could write down the content of his or her lecture on transparencies and give them to his assistant to be shown in the auditorium. The students wrote down the content of each page presented. The assistant, placing the pages to be presented to the students on the overhead machine, observed when the students stopped writing, then placed the next page in the machine. .... Not so long ago. Not in Russia.
Today, we expect the teacher to be present, personally. What can often be observed is that the students still write down as much as they can. Some students, even if they have the textbook gather heaps of lecture notes in the belief that educational research has demonstrated that such behaviour facilitates learning.
The point is that it is completely misleading to emphasise the difference between a backward Russian style of lecturing compared to a more ’modern’ or science-based tradition in other countries. There are many lectures in all countries that may be considered to be analogous to copying machines.
As for the scientific basis for ’modern lecturing’, it must be said that there are many teachers who have not attended a single lecture on how to use a blackboard in an auditorium. Somebody invented and sold green blackboards to the educational system without any research being carried out that demonstrated that the green colour improved learning. The same applies to whiteboards.
The overhead projectors arrived with no pedagogical manuals telling the teachers how to use them in order to improve learning in the auditorium.
Today, we buy computers, install them in our auditoriums and use ’PowerPoint’, still without pedagogical manuals. The result: Teachers seem to believe that the technology itself has an inbuilt pedagogical wisdom or competence, which it of course has not. There are teachers who express the belief that the students learn more and better the more different media we expose them to. Since this is not true, there seems to be an increasing resistance against PowerPoint as a pedagogical tool in lecturing.
What I am saying is intended to raise a discussion among teachers. I hope that they will not resist new technology, but at the same time I hope they will ask for pedagogical assistance both in rejecting bad things and getting research based readable manuals explaining when and how to use this technology.
Concerning the development at IKSUR within the two faculties, it has been reported that the tradition of dictating has decreased if not been broken, and that students feel that the new way of lecturing is better. Even though this message is not well documented, I have been told that there has been an improvement as a result of the EUROFACULTY Project. It would be an over interpretation to say that this has been the result of the production and distribution of written handouts and other written material. Some information indicates that students felt that the value of lectures increased, as they no longer felt like copy machines.
I tried to get information about how the teachers within the faculties had been educated in ‘lecturing’ as part of the EUROFACULTY Project, but nothing was reported concerning that question.
I also tried in vain to find out what pedagogical written material had been distributed to these teachers as part of the program of the EUROFACULTY Project. There were some indications that the exchange programme for both students and teachers played a positive role. When I asked how the experience of both teachers and students who had been abroad had been communicated to the other teachers and students I got no clear answer. I regret the possibility that I may have missed important information concerning this topic.
It is my impression that the lecturing ’style’ and ’culture’ improved as a result of the EUROFACULTY Project’s as a result of the introduction of new equipment and the production of textbooks and written material. The education of the teachers may also have played a part. (Here, one should be aware of the possibility that the focus on improving lectures, itself may trigger and facilitate improvement.) I also believe that the invisible impact on style and culture stemming from the exchange programme played a role. To use a pedagogical expression, it seems as if the ‘codes’ of lecturing were influenced in a positive way as a result of the EUROFACULTY Project.
In future projects along the lines of the EUROFACULTY Project, the teaching of teaching, focusing upon lecturing should be given some priority. It is my conviction that this is a cost effective use of resources.
Here, one should avoid all attempts to meet the task by developing a ’Procrustian bed’8 for all lectures and lecturers. Standing in an auditorium before an audience of active and interested students you are alone. No education can tell you how to master all subjects, all situations, all students and all sides of yourself through a standard procedure. Lecturing can be likened to being a soldier on the pedagogical battlefield:
We make the best plans we can ...and train our wills to hold steadfastly to them in the face of adversity, and yet to be flexible enough to change them when events show them to be unsound, or to take advantage of an opportunity that unfolds during the battle itself. But in the end every important battle develops to a point where there is no real control by senior commanders. Each soldier feels himself to be alone... The dominant feeling of the battlefield is loneliness,....
The famous field commander Bill Slim in a lecture to officers during the British campaign in Burma, quoted from: Max Hasting (2007): Nemesis. The Battle for Japan 1944-45. (p. 73)
The reason for quoting this is that it illustrates that the lecturer has to make quick decisions in unpredictable situations, and that no planning or previous education can meet the demand for competence by content alone. Both the teacher and the commander need to be trained in a way that includes personal capacity.
From the Russian side one may of course ask: If the educational situation is little better in other countries, why then can we not relax and just try to reach ’normal’ international standards, where this issue is not taken too seriously? The answer is that if Russia cannot improve the educational system through expenditure, it may seek to meet the global competition by increasing quality, spending the resources where maximum output can be obtained at the lowest cost. The education and pedagogical training of teachers may be one such area. Therefore Russia should be encouraged to have better lectures in their education than other countries. The task of this description is to indicate that there is a potential for achieving this.
Comment: I know full well that this task was not neglected in the EUROFACULTY Project, and that efforts were made to ’teach the teachers’. As already indicated, there is good reason to say that these efforts must be considered important factors behind the success of the EUROFACULTY Project, but (in education there is always a ’but’!) it must be said that I have the impression that the task was not attacked in a systematic way. As can be read from the annual reports there were seminars, lectures and excursions to other institutions in other countries. Each input may have been of high quality, contributing to the results achieved, but I am not convinced that there was a long term scientific based educational plan for all teachers included in the project. As far as can be seen by an outsider like me, no ’personal curriculum’, existed which I believe is needed for all of us to become good teachers.
My impression might be wrong, as I lack all the relevant information. Still my views may have some bearing and can be used to stress the importance of the pedagogical education of teachers. If the EUROFACULTY Project becomes a ’future model for curriculum development and new teaching methods all over Russia’, as rector Klemeshev expressed it almost 9 years ago, this model will surely include a well-founded plan for improving pedagogical qualifications of university teachers. Here, I have only touched upon one aspect of lecturing, but there are other important ones.
Improvement in the quality of lecturing.
As already indicated, the ‘teaching culture’ seems to have improved, but it is difficult to see why or howit happened, or if it can be attributed to one single cause or several. I believe that the most important impact came from the exchange program. This worked in concordance with the general cultural attitude pushing for change and a wish on the part of most of the teachers to participate in this change. The overall wind seems to have influenced the teachers, and one may believe that this in itself contributed to the improvement.
On the other hand, this cultural impact seems to have had different influences upon different individuals, some were more affected than others. There were some teachers who stuck to the ‘old fashion’.
The role of the exchange program as a cause behind the change is supported by some information saying that in a few cases, the students could observe an improvement in the quality of lecturing, ’before and after’ the lecturer had been abroad.
The student exchange program seems to have contributed to this development. Students who had felt the ’atmosphere’ in the ’foreign’ universities seemed to have influenced both the atmosphere at IKSUR and single teachers. How this worked is not clear.
There is another factor that may have contributed, namely the impact from the guest lecturers.
The guest lecturers from the donor countries seem to have been selected and invited according to ’subject competence’ without any assessment of their pedagogical competence or any documentation for this. Thus, it is not clear how pedagogically competent these teachers were. One may assume however, that they were above ‘average’, since they took time and effort to join and enthusiastically work in the project.
It was reported that there had been pedagogical lectures offered to the teachers, but it is not known if this part of the program specifically addressed a theme like ’the pedagogy of lecturing’.
No information could confirm if the students had been educated on ’how to improve the outcome of lectures seen from the point of view of the student’.
As far as I know, no literature was made available to the participants on ’the pedagogy of lecturing’.
Now, it seems relevant to ask the question of what can be done in future projects in order to improve teaching or to be more specific, lecturing.
Some pedagogical reflections on lectures and lecturing.
On the two different types of lectures and lecturing.
It is important to understand that there has never been agreement on how lectures can and should be performed. Lectures are not simply lectures. Investigating the problem, one soon discovers that there are no ‘best ways’ for lecturing. What is a good lecture for one student may be a bad lecture for another.
In fact, it is misleading to speak about ‘a lecture’. Since a lecture has two partners, the lecturer and the student, we must say that when a lecture is held, there are as many simultaneous lectures going on as there are students in the auditorium. Since they react and learn so differently, is makes little sense to ask if a specific lecture is good or bad with regards to all the students
One may say that a good lecture is created when the teacher and the student are in some kind of harmony. If teacher and student match each other in their way of thinking, a good lecture is created. This is lyricism, and does not help much. We must try to be more specific. What do we mean when we talk about ‘harmony in way of thinking where the minds of student and teacher meet in a way that learning occurs’? It is important to seek an answer to this question. Let us do that.
I use Wittgenstein’s strategy, examples:
What is a good lecture? Some quotations to illustrate the problem of giving a good answer. Planck on Kirchhoff:
Lecturing in a very different manner, Kirchhoff lectured from a carefully prepared manuscript, where every sentence was written in a very considered way, in the correct succession. Not one word too little, not one too much. But it seemed as everything was learned by heart, dry and monotonous. We admired the person who spoke, but not what he said.
Plotin and Porphyrios:
... once upon a time (about two thousand years ago) there was a teacher. His name was Plotin. He lectured about the relationship between body and soul. He was interrupted by one of his students, raising an argument. A discussion took place. It lasted three days. It is told that Plotin enjoyed this. The other students did not. They complained, and asked the teacher to continue dictating texts that they could write down.
In this 'auditorium' two types of lecture-cultures collided. Most of the students wanted the ‘preaching’ lecture, but the teacher, Plotin and the single student, Porphyrios, wanted the ’discussion-type’ of lectures.
None of the other students became great philosophers. Porphyrios became one of the most important in European history.
Rudolf Peierls on Planck:
Planck's lectures were, I think, the worst I have ever attended. He would read verbatim from one of his books, and if you had a copy of the book you could follow it line by line.
Of course my whole feeling at this time was the feeling of a student who attended a series of wonderful lectures. I mean wonderful in the sense that they were certainly very well prepared, very polished. I think he never made an error on the blackboard. And he was also a good talker ("Rhetor") - a good speaker.9
I must admit that to begin with I was a little disappointed in Planck's lectures because despite their really classic clarity they sometimes gave a rather colourless impression compared with Boltzmann's lectures, which were so strongly marked with feeling. But, as I soon saw, this was a mistake on my part.
And these ... facts were so overwhelmingly new and surprising that I remember the lecture very well, to this day.
Капица (Kapitza) tells what Lamb told about Maxwell:
... I remember a conversation, which I had with Sir Horace Lamb. He was telling me how he had attended Maxwell's lectures. Maxwell, he said was not a brilliant lecturer; he usually came to lectures without any notes. When he was doing mathematics on the blackboard he often made mistakes and sometimes got muddled. From the way in which Maxwell tried to disentangle and correct his mistakes Lamb learned more than from any textbooks he ever read. Lamb told me that for him the most precious parts of Maxwell's lectures were those in which he made mistakes.
Rudolf Peierls on Caratheodory:
I also attended lectures in mathematics. I remember particularly those by Caratheodory, a charming Greek, whose lectures were not very well organized. On one occasion he came into the lecture room and said, 'Yesterday I thought of a proof for the theorem I want to prove today, but on the way to the university I realized that it was wrong.' So for the whole hour he tried devising another proof, but got nowhere. As the bell rang, he said, 'Oh, I see now that my proof of yesterday is all right!' I found that I gained much more from this kind of lecture, in which you see the mental processes of the lecturer, than from perfectly organized ones, which tend to hide the difficulties and pitfalls.
Planck on Helmholz:
I must confess that I did not have much use of Helmholz’ lectures. He was never really prepared- He often made pauses while searching for the necessary information from a small notebook. In addition, he made calculation errors on the blackboard all the time, and we had the feeling that he was just as bored as we were.
As I said in the introduction to this report: Life is personal. This is personal. I could have added: Lecturing is personal. Learning in a lecture is personal. Pedagogics is personal.
From all these glimpses, can we make order out of this chaos?
First of all, it seems as if there are two fundamental types of lecture. One type is the well-prepared and well-structured lecture, something in the direction of a textbook, where scientific results are presented. The other type is a presentation of a scientific way of thinking and solving problems. Lectures that aim at starting discussions may belong to this type. In some cases these two types of lectures collide, for example where Plotin and Porphyrios argued. The rest of the students disliked the way it was developing, but we know that Plotin enjoyed it. In our context we may say that here the students could have learned, not the results of philosophical investigation, but how philosophers think when they work. We would call it a lecture where the philosophical discourse was taught.
This type is called the ’erothematic lecture’, named after the goddess for quarrel and dispute, Eris. (Erothematic in German: fragweise). Plotin and Porphyrios enjoyed the dispute, and we have reason to believe that what Porphyrios learned contributed to his later role for European philosophy.
The other students wanted an extremely different lecture; the well structured ‘dictating’, or the ‘achroamatic’ approach. (Achromatic may be translated as the ‘preaching’ or ‘telling’ approach. German: ‘vortragende’).
As we can see from the different examples they may be interpreted as a difference between these two approaches, the erothematic and the achroamatic preference. It should be noted here that both these preferences should be developed into a pedagogical menu. A teacher may enter the auditorium one day, saying: ‘today I want do give a lecture on xxy. My lecture should be seen as an introduction to discussion. Please interrupt me as you like!’ The next day, the same teacher may say: ‘today I have prepared a lecture on ccc, I have found things that are not yet published that I want to communicate. Please do not interrupt me. If you do that, I shall not have the time to deliver my message. If you want to discuss, please contact me after the lecture.’
The important thing here is that this teacher has got rid of her/his belief that there is only one way to lecture, and has understood that he or she may choose from a ‘menu of different ways of lecturing’.
As I have said before about the difference between a book and a lecture, it seems that the lecture may have the advantage of better being able how to demonstrate how scientists think while solving a problem. This may be done involuntarily, as in some of the examples given, but there is also the possibility that a lecturer may plan to tell the student how to solve a problem. An example: (From Rashdalls description of a lecture from medieval Bologna.)
First, I shall give you summaries of each title before I proceed to the text; secondly, I shall give you as clear and explicit a statement as I can of the purport of each Law (included in the title); thirdly, I shall read the text with a view to correcting it; fourthly, I shall briefly repeat the contents of the Law; fifthly, I shall solve apparent contradictions, adding any general principles of Law (to be extracted from the passage, ... and any distinctions or subtle and useful problems (questions) arising out of the Law with their solutions, as far as the Divine Providence shall enable me.
These considerations on lectures and lecturing are important, not only because they illustrate the difference between the ‘simplification approach’ and the more complicated ‘other side of he picture’. The EUROFACULTY Project was introduced and run in its first phase under the banner saying that all lectures belong to passivizing teaching, compared to other ‘activating’ methods. This was a correct and useful simplification. Now, it is time to proceed and enter the realm of pedagogical reflection, approaching a deeper understanding of both lectures and other forms of teaching and learning. On the horizon we see teachers and students making their own decisions from pedagogical menus where there is place for both activating lectures and other ‘methods’.
On the improvement of teaching. The improvement of teaching was one of the main and overall objectives of the EUROFACULTY Project. It seems to have been achieved, but it is only thebeginning of a process that has to be continued. The achievement was ’only’ successful in the light of the simplified consideration, that there exist some pedagogical (or European) ’standards’ for good teaching. In fact, there are no such standards.
If IKSUR (or any other university) were to invite a guest lecturer to teach the teachers the best way of lecturing, and he or she accepts the invitation, there is something wrong. There is, in fact, no best way to lecture. Why is this so?
As already indicated it is because a lecture consists of two parts, the lecturer and the student. Strictly speaking, if you deliver a lecture to 100 students, there are 100 lectures running at the same time. Each individual student has his or her own perception and outcome of the delivered performance. Where one student learns, another student may find the lecture boring.
Students, - their interests, ambitions and cognitive style are so different that it is impossible to deliver a lecture that is ’good’ for everyone.
How to teach teachers to teach. The solution to this challenge depends upon what you want. If you are asking for some rules that guarantee good lectures for every student, the answer is plainly negative. If you are asking for some menus as tools for improving lectures, you may get some advices.
The pedagogical improvement of lecturing should include work with the following questions:
What is your need for a specific lecture, and what do you think the needs of the students are? Is the objective to describe some results in research that are so new that no written publication is yet available, or is the publication written in a way that makes the content too difficult for the students?
Do you want to communicate the results of scientific work, or describe how the scientists (you?) think and work?
Do you want to inspire the students to become interested in the subject, or do you believe that this is not necessary?
What are the pedagogical ’user manuals’ covering all media that may be used in a lecture? (Voice, writing on a blackboard, body language, face- and eye movements, overheads, screens, PowerPoint with written text, symbols or pictures, Internet, et cetera).
What are the pedagogical ’user manuals’ for the students? Have they been educated to know their own ’perceptual style’? Do they know when, how and why they (should or should not) take notes? Do they know how to prepare themselves for a specific lecture, and work with it afterwards?
Is it important to finish your lecture with the description of your next lecture?
There are more interesting questions. Some of them may need consultations of scientific investigations; other may be answered (and developed) in cooperation with your students. Some questions may need specific research. The important thing is that both teacher and students should understand that the task to improve lecturing is something that cannot be considered to be only the teacher’s responsibility alone. The students, both as a collective, and as the single individual student, have co-responsibility to improve lecturing, (Tell your students. Some of them will be very surprised!)
Is it expensive?
The improvement of lecturing can range between simple and cheap approaches and very complicated solutions that may be expensive.
A cheap and simple approach is to give the students the message that you care. Do not say that. It is lyricism and hardly helps. Use the ‘hidden curriculum’ and do care. A simple way is to tell your students that you are going to interview two of them once a month. Do that, but do not ask them if they are satisfied with your lecture. They will be polite, and try to make a good impression upon you. That belongs to normal ‘student strategy’. Ask them to tell you what the lecture was about. They may use their notes, if they so wish, because you are not interested in what or how much they remember. What you should try to find out is what the students have understood and what they have not understood. If you are well prepared for these interviews, you will have probably read about ‘concept development’ by students in your subject and ‘misconceptions among students ‘.
The aim of these interviews is not to make one or two students become better, but to become better yourself. If this is the signal to all students, you may find that your lectures are better received. If you get relevant information you may change and improve your way of lecturing.
Cheap, - and sometimes it works, sometimes not. It is interesting to find out.
It is a little more expensive to contact the department for pedagogical development at your institute and ask to be educated, to say to them that you want to improve your lectures in your subject. Tell them that your colleagues probably want the same. If there is no department for pedagogical development, only a single person, you should show your interest and cooperate with her/him and your colleagues in order to find a solution. It is not acceptable that teachers in higher education shall are left without pedagogical education and support.
It is necessary to reduce the number of lectures, bringing them down to a reasonably level. Nobody can give a scientific answer to the question of what this level should be. The strategy to use is to analyse the total payload upon the students; how many hours they may be expected to study each week. Here should be counted all activities for a normal ‘student week’. One should of course not forget to make the same analysis for the teacher’s situation.
Recommendations on lectures and lecturing.
Both students and teachers should learn to understand and use the pedagogics of lectures, lecturing and taking part in a lecture.
Teachers and students should learn the pedagogics of how to use media in lectures.
Students and teachers should discuss and agree upon why and how lecture notes are to be used.
Students and teachers should understand that lecturing does not aim at transmitting knowledge from the teacher’s brain into the brain of the individual student.
The teacher should, as far as possible, seek to find out what the students have learned through the lectures.
In order to improve and develop competence both as lecturer and student, the participants should discuss this together during the course.
To teach the teachers.
The EUROFACULTY Project is primarily an educational project, including both educational change and an educational assignment. The assignment being understood to be one of educating the participants both to understand and practice the pedagogical objectives mentioned.
We, as teachers in higher education, expect our students to accept that they have to learn; that they cannot do this alone; that they have to be taught (by us), and that their theoretical knowledge and (if applicable) also their practical performance has to be demonstrated and assessed. In fact, we have these expectations and demands upon almost everybody around us in our daily life; the pilots and crew on the airplanes we are sitting in, the taxi drivers who take us to the airport etc. When we need to, we go to doctors, and sometimes into hospitals, where we expect treatment from people who are educated and quality controlled in every possible way. Why then, do we expect our students to be satisfied with us on the basis that they can trust our words when we think we are good teachers, although we have never acquired this competence in a systematic way or been assessed?
How to teach the teachers to become good teachers?
Unfortunately, the plan for the EUROFACULTY Project is very vague in describing how this educational assignment is to be performed, both in relationship to content (syllabus, Kanon), pedagogics and curriculum. No plans or models for evaluating the process and results are explicitly designed.
The objectives are indicated partly in an impersonal way, not being explicit on the question ’who shall learn what, when and by what means’?’
The question about ’who’, can to some degree be answered implicitly. Since it is indicated that the ’style of teaching’ has to be changed, this means that the teacher is in focus.
This question is the topic for the following considerations.
Dewey says that the ’school’ is ’a prepared experience space’. In the physical meaning, a school is really a space. Here we keep the pupils for some years in a space that is defined by educational traditions. We test and assess the learning process of our pupils, and assisted by the science of pedagogics, we try to improve, change and accelerate this process. As our children grow older, we may organise the learning process in a way that gives the pupils/students more and more responsibility for their own learning.
An organised learning usually includes an activity that we call ’teaching’, including some people called ’teachers’. Cases where we expect learning to take place without teaching or teachers may be fund in ’job training’ or ’learning from experience’. Every one of us has been and is taking part in this. We learn both everyday activities and complicated things without being taught by teachers or entering into spaces where other people have prepared their experience in a curriculum or a program for teaching us.
In the world of pedagogics, teaching and learning, there are many mysteries. One mystery lies in the questions: Why are our university teachers supposed to become good teachers in their subject without any serious education in pedagogics? How is it possible to become a good university teacher in a subject without any organised education in ’the pedagogics of teaching and learning in this particular subject’? Why can it be that a university teacher can live and do a good job without having read or heard about research in teaching and learning within his or her subject and without taking part in this ongoing research?
Many years ago, I stopped asking these sorts of questions to university teachers, simply because some of them perceived it as an insult, as if I doubted their competence.
As a teacher of university teachers I have learned that their feeling of competence sometimes blocks their interest in the pedagogics of their own academic subject, and that one cannot force a way through that wall. On the other hand, once they let you in and start to discuss with you, they very often demonstrate a high insight in pedagogical issues learned though their own experience. Even then, they sometimes express surprise when they hear that they are not alone, and that there is ongoing research that supports or sometimes contradict their views. Then comes my question to them: ’You seem to have learned a lot though your own experience, but don’t you think that you could have learned it quicker and better if you had got the opportunity to be educated by a teacher in pedagogics?’ The answer is, almost invariably that their experience with pedagogues or pedagogical literature is that they are ’boring’, ’academic’ (in the sense of being irrelevant) or that ’the pedagogues do not understand the subject’.
As a part of the EUROFAN Project, I have tried to keep this issue in mind, and occasionally touched upon it in some of the discussions I have had with the participants. I have also tried, without success, to find out what appertaining literature (including relevant periodicals) is to be found in the libraries, who, (how many) have borrowed them and so on. One of the answers (if I understand it correctly) was that there was not and had never been any priorities from the side of the EUROFACULTY Project to buy literature on pedagogics for the libraries. There is no shame in this. I have reason to believe that this situation differs little from that in some of the universities cooperating in the project. One cannot take it for granted that a visiting lecturer is well oriented on the pedagogics of her or his academic subject. (Some of the participants, on being asked, confirmed this.)
Now, one may ask the questions? Is it so bad? Was the EUROFACULTY Project a failure in this respect? Was there no improvement achieved in the pedagogical competence of the academic staff that took part in the project?
The answer is this:
As indicated above, if the world, including the academic world, had been totally dependent upon the science of pedagogics to create a good teaching and learning situation in our educational system, we would have had a catastrophe. The reality is there is no catastrophe. One can learn quite a great deal from a teacher who has not read a single book on important pedagogical challenges.
To give one example:
I have in my life attended lectures in physics, philosophy, history, literature, biology, mathematics, chemistry, social work, psychology and some other subjects, and I have never found a teacher who did not know how to use the blackboard in her or his way. On the other hand, they all used the blackboard in many different ways. Some of them in a good way, some terribly.
Some of them were ’everyday university teachers’, others eminent people in their science.
I have met many, many teachers, including teachers within primary and secondary school, and I have asked some of them whether they have had any training whatsoever on how to use the blackboard in an auditorium or a classroom. Not a single one could remember any such training. I have asked many, including students in teacher education, if they could recommend good scientific based literature on ’how to use the blackboard’ as a pedagogical tool for teaching. I received no such recommendations
As far as can be seen from the findings within the limited scope of the EUROFAN Project, there has been a substantial development and improvement in the quality of teachers and teaching in the two faculties in question. This development cannot be traced back to a well-developed pedagogical plan and accomplishment of this plan. There has been no systematic curriculum in pedagogics for the teachers. They have not been assessed or tested, neither during the teaching/learning process nor as an outcome/result of it.
The positive results in the improved pedagogical level seem to be solely the result of some factors that were not bundled together in a curriculum. These factors seem to be:
The general focus upon teaching and learning, as this is indicated in the objectives for the EUROFACULTY Project, seems to have created a general positive ’atmosphere’ among the teachers. (Using a pedagogical expression, one could say that the ’codes’ and the ’impact’ of these codes upon teachers’ consciousness and priorities stemming from the EUROFACULTY Project became a ’factor behind the success!’)
Apart from some ’resistance’ from single individuals it seems as if most of the teachers had some positive feelings towards the EUROFACULTY Project and felt some loyalty towards it. In some cases, it was not an abstract ’loyalty’, but simply a matter of self-interest that stood behind this positive attitude.
For some teachers and students, who directly or indirectly took part in the exchange programmes, there seems to have been a clear message from the universities visited that they had a better and more effective pedagogical everyday life in their institutions and that this could be adopted by the visiting teachers (and students!) to increase and improve their pedagogical competence.
Some of the sources indicated that the invited pedagogical lecturers had played a positive role, but it is not known whether this was caused by the content of these activities, the way they were run or the creation of enthusiasm in the audience,
It is important to ask one question: If a rather unstructured impact upon the teaching ‘culture’ could achieve good results, what results can be expected when the improvement of teaching is made through an effective and well planned training of he teachers?
Metatheoretical considerations on the teaching of university teachers.
On academic autonomy.
The question of academic autonomy has some bearing upon the pedagogical qualification of university teachers. It is worth some consideration.
A university development project with the aim of improving the quality of students must of course have the right to test whether this takes place or not, and to what degree any improvement was achieved. This may be done through at closer look at the students learning process.
If the teachers are offered to participate in a learning process, one should also offer them an evaluation and an assessment of this learning program in order to find out if and how they gain knowledge of the ’new pedagogics’. Would it not be rational to say that all teachers should be obliged to go through their own curriculum, including passing some examinations that show that they were up to the new pedagogical ’standards’, ’way of thinking’ or what it may be called? Further, would it not be correct to say that not only the new gained theoretical knowledge be assessed, but that also their ability to use this knowledge?
In modern educational thinking, there seems to be an increasing understanding of co-responsibility. We plan for and we expect students to take co-responsibility for their own learning. This means that not only the teachers but also the students have co-responsibility for the teaching. In its simplest form, we ask them to be active in relation to lectures. We expect them to prepare themselves before the lecture, during the lecture (to pay attention or in other ways), and after the lecture (to work with ’the message’).
As part of the modern thinking, the students will, sooner or later, demand the right to be educated by the best teachers available. In practise this will amount to nothing less than the students demanding that all their teachers not only know their subject as a science but also how to teach in accordance with scientific based pedagogics. At that stage, one would expect and hope that the students demand that the teachers be also assessed. Furthermore, the students may come to expect that the teaching of their teachers should follow the same ’rules’ as their own education, implying that; ’if you fail in a test, there will be consequences for you as there are for us if we fail.’
It is far outside the task and scope of the EUROFAN Project to propose such revolutionary wisdom, but it may be said that these difficult issues must soon be considered.
Without wanting to appear too revolutionary, I must nevertheless be permitted to say this as a recommendation for future development along the line of the ‘EUROFACULTY’-efforts.
If teachers accept and work for a pedagogical curriculum for themselves, and also accept that their competence and performance be assessed, this would be an important contribution to the hidden curriculum of the students. The message is: We expect you to be serious, hard working students, as you may expect us to be serious, hard working teachers.
Recommendations for teacher qualification.
All teachers at all levels should have some education in general pedagogics, which is about learning and teaching processes in general.
All teachers can teach, but if we have any belief in pedagogics as a science we must say that with pedagogical insight, all teachers can improve the quality of their teaching. Even good teachers can become better. There should be no excuse for anybody saying that they cannot improve their teaching.
Considering both motivation and the need for taking responsibility for their own learning, one should be careful and not force ’pedagogics’ upon the teachers by making reading, lectures or other activities compulsory. Instead, one should try to raise interest in pedagogical issues. The point of departure should be that all university teachers have a desire to be good teachers, including the wish to improve the learning process of their students.
There are many ways to the hearts and brains of university teachers, but one should always bear in mind that they have spent years of activity and interest in becoming what they consider themselves to be; experts in a science. Therefore, one should try, as far as possible to illustrate that ’pedagogics’ represents one of the ’nerves’ in all scientific thinking. (The German educationalist, Martin Wagenschein has adopted this view in the field of physics, demonstrating that no science is too ’advanced’ for pedagogical improvement.)
One of the most important dimensions of the ’1968-movement’ was that it created a pedagogical debate outside the pedagogical institutes. This debate was partly in the form of written material, from slogans on the walls to the writing of books. The experience from this ’movement’ may be formulated in the advice not to neglect the importance of written material as part of an educational reform. This material should not be too authoritative, giving concrete answers or telling people what to do. Instead, it should raise questions for the reader to discuss with her-/himself and with colleagues.
It is strongly recommended that the task of improving the pedagogical everyday life in university should be carried out in cooperation between staff, faculty and students.